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What’s another year

It’s at this time of year that most people begin to review all that was completed in 2017 and attempt to set some new goals for 2018. A lot of people I respect in the industry have presented their goals for 2018 and I noticed that I hadn’t done a post for last year to say what my goals were. This year however I want to have it documented for both posterity and for accountability.

So, where do I start with goals for 2018. I don’t really buy into just having new years resolutions as these are usually something like “I need to go to the gym more” and then you handover half your years wages for the privilege of sitting on your couch. For me the goals for the coming year need to be something tangible, relevant and achievable. Some of them are stretch goals so there a bit more challenging to reach but that’s part of the joy really. In order to figure out what goals I wanted to set I took a look back at what was achieved last year and what I didn’t get around to doing. If anything was still relevant it could be carried over to the new year.

In general 2017 was a personally outstanding year. I know a lot of people are glad to see the back of it but it provided some great achievements and memories for both me and my family. On Australia Day I was sworn in as an Australian citizen which was an emotional experience and a great way to kickstart the year. I took stock of my career over the previous Christmas holiday period and looked at the opportunities within my role, where the company was going and what my role was morphing into following some heavy organisational restructuring. I had a realisation that I was struggling to achieve a good work-family balance and that something had to change. Due to significant out-of-hours work requirements, as it was a global role, I wasn’t really present for family events or moments and when I was I was just tired and general a curmudgeonly old bastard. While I was enjoying my job I wasn’t enjoying my family time so I pulled the pin and moved into a locally based role rather than a global one and took the opportunity to move into a Solutions Architecture position. I have to say that it’s been an immense change and my own mental health is much better for it.

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Architect your Career

Architect your Career

If you’ve ever watched the TV show Grand Designs you’ll know that one of the mantras of the host Kevin McCloud is that the builder should not be the architect or the project manager. Every time there’s a self-build project and the couple take on more than their capabilities his first piece of advice is to get a dedicated architect or project manager. And he’s normally right.

Well, why don’t we take the same principle to our careers. We are essentially all self-builders. We’re the people digging the foundation, laying the blocks, installing the plumbing and electrics. All while learning on the fly. Exactly like a career. Sometimes when we’re caught up in the minutiae of the day to day things it’s hard to step back and take a 10000 feet view of where things are at and where they can go. As solution architects this is exactly what we have to do. Look at the vision, the requirements, the constraints, the capabilities and what interfaces need to be taken into account.

Grand_designs

Where this this all start?

Towards the middle of last year the company I worked with underwent a major organisational restructure within the IT department. The reasons for the change were I believe justified, as the company grew through acquisition they needed to be able to ensure 24 x 7 global support and have the ability for the regional teams to be in constant communication and collaboration. The goal was to drive standardisation across all sites and in turn drive down costs to deliver IT services. Prior to this each primary site, a total of 9 globally, worked in their own silos with their own budgets. The vision was needed but as with all restructures there are some casualties. Some are desired and others are just unintentional fallout. Following the acceptance by senior executives there were some immediate resignations at the mid-management level which were expected. The delivery of the new restructure dragged on however and led to a number of senior engineers leaving too. Including me.

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IT Hoarders, the Keepers of Legacy

We’ve all heard stories of hoarders. That one guy in the neighbourhood that has two cars, a lawnmower, a boat, two dog sheds, an engine from a vintage car, a second rusted engine from a vintage car, some bales of hay and what looks to be a Salvador Dali custom one of a kind sculpture in their front garden. There’s even TV shows about these guys. I honestly believe some of the most under-represented hoarders are those that work in IT. In some cases they should actually be museum pieces. Everyone I know has battle scars of having to deal with ancient relics from a bygone era that is hosting the most critical application for the entire company and hasn’t been patched in 20 years because Jim that installed it but has since retired and no one else is will to risk it. What if it never comes back up? It’s not under a support contract. How is it that IT systems are still being bound with baling twine (probably taken from your neighbourhood hoarders hay bales) and refurbished, bought from e-bay, hard disks? Any worst of all, it’s generally accepted as standard practice in some places. I’ll never forget being ask by the finance director if we could just buy a new EMC Clariion from ‘the internet’ rather than go through a proper procurement process with EMC directly. “Shur isn’t the internet cheap.” Yes boss it is but…..

So to understand this mentality of not wanting to change and hoarding old equipment in data centers in a large part to justify their existance I have take a look at what a hoarder is and also what it is not.

What a hoarder is not:

A hoarder is not a collector. A collector has a sense of pride about their possessions and take pleasure in showing and talking about their possessions. Collectors tend to keep their possessions organised. A hoarder on the other hand will generally experience embarassment about their possessions and feel uncomfortable when others see them. Their possessions take over the functional living space and they often incur great debt to satisfy their hoarding needs.

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vMotion to vNotions

vNotions Logo LargeThose that frequent the site regularly will have noticed quite a few changes recently. I’ve migrated the blog from wordpress.com to a hosted wordpress site and the name has also changed from virtualnotions to vNotions. I wanted to get more control of the site and be able to develop it over time into something else as it continues to grow and develop. WordPress.com is excellent as a free resource but I wanted to be able to customise more.

I really wasn’t sure what the best hosting solution would be as there are a number of options. There’s managed, managed hosted, virtual private server (VPS) and also the option of running wordpress in AWS. I turned to twitter to see if anyone had any recommendations for hosting wordpress. The first reply came from Mike Andrews (@trekintech) and I have to thank him for the recommendation. I had a look at a number of different providers and settled on DigitalOcean which was put forward by Mike. DigitalOcean have a strong community forum and supporting documentation so it was very easy to get everything set up. Each VPS in DigitalOcean is called a droplet and it’s very quick to deploy a new server instance. I stumbled across ServerPilot.io which allows quick deployment of apps on DigitalOcean VPS instances. ServerPilot takes a lot of hassle with setting up new apps and given that it’s also got a free option it’s very appealing. It also deployed WordPress using the Nginx engine so it’s considerably faster than just the LAMP stack with Apache. For quick reference check out this guide for installing wordpress on ubuntu and also this one one installing wordpress on DigitalOcean. There’s also a good guide on setting up wordpress on DigitalOcean over at MyBloggingThing. It was a straightforward process to set up a new instance of wordpress and migrate the content from the old wordpress.com site to the new vNotions.com site. Once the site was migrated and fully operational I enabled CDN using CloudFlare to improve speed accessing the site from disperse graphical locations. All in all, it was a relatively painless process.

Right now I’m tidying up the posts on the site to clear out any old posts that are no longer relevant. I’d like to thank Mike Andrews for his feedback that set the ball rolling. For anyone thinking of checking out DigitalOcean I’d definitely recommend jumping right in. The support team at DigitalOcean were also top class and replied very quickly to an issue I had (self-inflicted I might add). vNotions has vMotioned from VirtualNotions.

The 2016 Hit List

Scott Lowe, who is a well know IT contributor, recently released a post about his 2016 Projects. While I don’t have any intention of writing a book this year his post did get me thinking about what I’d like to work on this year and what goals I want to aim for. Truth be told it’s been something that I’ve been thinking about since the Xmas period but I’ve been having a bit of a writers block for the past month so I’ve only gotten around to this now.

So here they are, the goals I’m making myself accountable to for the next 11 months.

1. Blog more

Last year was my first real attempt to blog regularly and I have to admit that it was sometimes hard to find the time to write down all the blog ideas I have in my head. In total I published 56 blog posts on virtualnotions which is actually more than I had expected at roughly 1 a week. This year I want to build on the foundation of last year and work at releasing more content. One thing I really want to ensure is the quality remains high. I was a bit surprised by the buzz I got from posting some new content and seeing the readership rise for various posts. The site traffic jumped around March of last year and steadily grew for the remainder of the year. The number of visitors isn’t going to break any blog records but it’s been satisfying watch it grow and has provided encouragement to keep going.

2. Get back on the certification trail

During the past couple of years I’ve let this aspect of my career drop a bit. This is largely down to motivation and starting a family. Having kids, as I’m sure many are well aware, really destroys the free time that existed before kids. Now that they are growing and most importantly healthy, I want to put some focus back on certifications. I know for many certifications are seen to be unnecessary but I’m using them as learning tools. I’ve expanded my knowledge over the past few years into different technology and the key certs I will work on will be to further expand and solidify my knowledge in those areas. The ones I’ll be working towards are CCNA DC, NetApp NCDA and re-certify for VMware VCP. I want to also start working towards VMware VCAP-6 which I want to complete next year. All of these certs are big undertakings but once I get into the study zone it should hopefully make it easier to complete a few of them in succession.

3. Community participation Read More